PORTLAND — Kris Henry waited more than three decades for this.
He has spent 32 seasons in the Henley wrestling program, the bulk of it as the Hornets’ head coach. Now an assistant coach, he was at the Memorial Coliseum last Saturday to finally witness the Hornets grab the blue trophy — the Class 4A state team championship.
“It’s a culmination of a lot of effort by a lot of people for a lot of years,” Henry said on the arena floor as the tournament neared its end. “It’s the children of the wrestlers who started wrestling that are coming on and getting things done. It’s been a generation in building.
“I’m so proud of these boys, and they’re proud of what they’ve done. They don’t know what they’ve done, but we know what they’ve done.”
Henley had 30 prior athletic team titles, but none in wrestling. The Hornets won this one with ease, basically turning Saturday night’s finals into a coronation.
They entered the championship matches with a 29-point lead. They exited with a 35-point advantage over Sweet Home on the strength of two champions, a runner-up and four others who finished among the top four in their weight classes.
A record 17 Hornets made the state tournament, although there are fewer available bracket spots under the current state tournament setup. Ten made it to Saturday and, of the seven who placed, five will return next year.
Henley set three program milestones for the third time — seven placers (matching 2007 and 2010), though the prior teams combined for three top-four finishers; three finalists (1967 and 2009) and two champions (1966 and ’67).
With its depth and collective success in Portland, Henley became the first Klamath Basin school since Klamath Union in 1954 to win a wrestling team title.
The Pels won their titles in bunches — all five in a seven-year span — and the Hornets are in a great position to do the same. But, head coach Pete Lucas won’t predict a similar stretch just yet.
“How many?” he said. “One at a time.”